Contractors have plugged more than 10% of Louisiana’s orphaned oil well sites in the first six and half months of work funded by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021.
According to an announcement from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office and the Department of Natural Resources, the current count of 519 wells plugged since mid-January surpasses the highest number ever plugged by the state Oilfield Site Restoration program in a full year by 239 wells.
Typically, orphaned well sites in Louisiana are wells designated by the Office of Conservation as not having a responsive operator, either due to the operator going out of business or being unable or unwilling to maintain their sites in compliance with state regulations. Louisiana’s orphaned well count is at about 4,500 sites, accelerated by downturns in the prices of oil and gas in recent years that put financial strains on oil and gas companies.
The $25 million initial grant from the BIL, paired with $12.7 million in BIL funding provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, helped attract larger-scale contractors who normally do not bid on smaller individual projects. The initial grant was more than double the typical yearly funding devoted to closing up wells.
The two primary contractors chosen by DNR have been working with more than a dozen crews in the field, with work expected to continue through October.
DNR Secretary Tom Harris says he hopes the pace and scope of the work done under this initial grant from the BIL will strengthen the case for increasing the amount Louisiana receives in later rounds of funding targeting orphaned wells. See the announcement.